These are strange times. That's obvious, I know, but beyond all the craziness going on in 2020, the notion that 24 minutes of music should be regarded as a "full-length album" is currently blowing my mind more than anything else. Even "Reign In Blood" managed to pass the 27-minute mark. Not that there is anything wrong with New Jersey progressive metal crew ETHERIUS's debut record: this is a hugely enjoyable piece of work, dense with memorable melodies and restrained but undeniably virtuoso chops. But it's still a mini-album, at best. An EP, you might say. Let's not change the rules when everything else is in disarray, eh? Consider yourselves chastened.
Anyway, I digress. Apologies to ETHERIUS. Because this really is great stuff: a polished but passionate antidote to a lot of the mindless guitar wank that masquerades as "progressive" in the 21st century. Bereft of vocals, the band's technical abilities are constantly on display, but this is an album of carefully crafted songs with beginnings, middles and ends. Melody is front and center at all times, and even the more adventurous moments exude a simplicity and warmth that you just can't manufacture, particularly when playing as many notes as possible at lightning speed. There are moments of heart-rending yearning ("Unity in Darkness") and flat-out melo-death workouts with an ancient Egyptian vibe ("The Rivers of Sand and Blood" and "The Eyes of Ra"). At times it edges into an almost ALLEGAEON-like state of tech'd out shred-lust, but ETHERIUS never disappear up their own titanium porthole. On the expansive, multi-mood "The Omnipotent", they add a dash of OPETH-like dynamism and it suits them perfectly.
"Chaos. Order. Renewal" is exactly the kind of succinct, punchy and characterful kick up the arse that instrumental metal needs right now. We just need more of it.